Rafu Staff Report
Grant Imahara already has a resume that is the envy of techies everywhere. On the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters,” he gets to blow stuff up, and as an animatronics expert he has worked on movies in the “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” “Terminator” and “Matrix” franchises.
The USC alumnus is one of the operators of R2D2 and the Energizer Bunny. He is a frequent guest on CBS’ “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and created the show’s creepy robot/skeleton sidekick, Geoff.
But his latest job title may be the coolest of all — helmsman of the USS Enterprise.
Imahara has been cast as Hikaru Sulu — the character first played by George Takei in the original “Star Trek” — in a new online series, “Star Trek Continues.” The series will present the further adventures of the Enterprise crew from the 1966-69 show, with a new cast.
Imahara is joining Chris Doohan, son of original “Star Trek” actor James Doohan, as Scotty; “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Dragonball Z” voice actor Vic Mignogna as Capt. Kirk; Kim Stinger, formerly of another fan series, “Star Trek: Phase II,” as Lt. Uhura; Chuck Huber as Dr. McCoy; Wyatt Lenhart as Ensign Chekov; and Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock. Mignogna is also the producer and director.
“A great deal of thought and consideration went into assembling the best cast possible,” said Mignogna. “Every one of them is an accomplished and skilled professional who brings so much to the production. From the beginning, we committed to having experienced actors who would bring deep and endearing performances, and that’s exactly what we have. I hope the avid admirers of ‘Star Trek’ will enjoy this cast’s work as much as we are going to enjoy making it.”
Mignogna has pointed out that many of the fan films use non-actors — and it shows.
Production of two vignettes has been completed at Farragut Films Studio in Kingsland, Ga. One was shown at a “Star Trek” convention in Baltimore on the weekend of Aug. 4-5 and has been made available online at www.startrekcontinues.com and on Vimeo. That vignette begins with a re-enactment of the final scene of the original series’ final episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” and uses it as a launching point for the new series.
Shooting for the first full episode will begin in October, with the premiere tentatively set for January. Mignogna told Trekmovie.com that the episode will be a sequel to an episode of the original series and will feature the original guest star.
The show is a partnership between Dracogen Strategic Investments and Farragut Films, which is already producing an online series set in the era of the original “Star Trek,” “Starship Farragut.”
Imahara is no stranger to “Star Trek.” A segment of “Mythbusters” was devoted to “Arena,” a classic episode of the original series in which Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) has to face off against a reptilian species called the Gorn. Stranded on a desert planet with no weapons, Kirk uses the materials at hand to make a crude cannon and disables his Gorn counterpart.
The “Mythbusters” co-hosts had fun re-enacting scenes from the episode with Imahara as Spock, Tory Belleci as Kirk and Jessi Combs as a yeoman.
The team tried to see if Kirk’s cannon would work in real life. With hand-mixed gunpowder, the weapon just emitted smoke. With real gunpowder, the bamboo cannon exploded, damaging the dummy standing in for Kirk. With a reinforced bamboo cannon, some of the projectiles hit the Gorn, but again the explosion would have killed Kirk. Conclusion — the myth was busted.
“Star Trek Continues” gives Imahara an opportunity to don a Starfleet uniform and this time play it straight instead of tongue-in-cheek.
The show will also add to his resume as an actor. Currently, IMDb lists only two acting credits for Imahara, the latest being a guest role as Sir Angus De Cranium in an episode of “The League of S.T.E.A.M.” (Supernatural and Troublesome Ectoplasmic Apparition Management).
In an interview with CraveOnline on the set of “Star Trek Continues,” Imahara commented, “The entire time we were filming, it’s like the best summer camp you could possibly have. My 8-year-old self is like freaking out … I’m sitting in the chair (at the helm on the bridge of the Enterprise) and I can’t believe what’s happening.”
His favorite episode of the original series is “Mirror, Mirror,” which took place in an alternate universe where the Enterprise crew was evil. In that episode, “Mirror Sulu” kept hitting on Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and tried to kill Capt. Kirk.
As a footnote to “Star Wars” fans, Imahara wants everyone to know that although he worked on the prequels, he is not responsible for the much-maligned CGI character Jar Jar Binks.
How Many Sulus?
In addition to the original series, the “Star Trek” franchise includes four more series (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Deep Space 9,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise”) and 11 movies. All of these are considered “canon” or part of the official “Star Trek” story. The 1970s animated series and various novels, video games and comic books are officially licensed but are not considered canon.
Then there are the fan films, which are neither licensed nor canon. Since there hasn’t been any “Star Trek” TV series since 2005 and there is a long wait between movies (the last one came out in 2009 and the next one is due in 2013), some fans have created their own stories and posted them on the Internet. They are set in the “Star Trek” universe but usually involve new characters and new situations.
The owners of “Star Trek” (Paramount for the movies and CBS for the TV shows) tolerate the fan films as long as they aren’t used to make a profit. And profit is definitely not the motive, as fans invest a great deal of their own money into these productions.
Officially, the only actors who have played Kirk, Spock and company are the original cast and the cast of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movie, which featured younger versions of the characters. John Cho, also known for the “Harold and Kumar” and “American Pie” movies, plays young Sulu in the 2009 film and the upcoming sequel.
Unofficially, in addition to “Star Trek Continues,” there is another web series, “Star Trek: Phase II” (originally called “Star Trek: New Voyages”), that also picks up where the original series left off. Attorney-turned-actor John Lim played Sulu in four episodes and J.T. Tepnapa in two. Tepnapa appeared as a different character in another fan series, “Star Trek: Hidden Frontier.”
The lines between official and unofficial Trek became blurred when Takei himself guest-starred in a 2007 episode of “Star Trek: New Voyages” titled “World Enough and Time.” Sulu (Lim) goes on a dangerous mission and, due to a temporal anomaly, returns as an older Sulu (Takei) with a grown daughter. The episode was nominated for a Hugo, a prestigious science fiction award, for best dramatic presentation.
This may have been Takei’s final appearance as Sulu after playing the character in the original series, the animated series, six movies, audio adventures, an episode of “Voyager,” and video games over a span of more than 40 years.
Although all the positions are filled for now, thanks to the Internet there may yet be another opportunity for an aspiring Asian American actor to play Sulu.
TREK TRIVIA: Other Asian American actors who have made their mark in the “Star Trek” franchise include the following:
• France Nuyen played the title role in the original series episode “Elaan of Troyius.”
• Miko Mayama played Yeoman Tamura in the original series episode “A Taste of Armageddon.”
• Keye Luke played the governor of a penal colony in the original series episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Shortly before his death in 1991, he was asked to play Dr. Soong, Data’s creator, in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but was unable or unwilling to take the role.
• Kelvin Han Yee was considered for the role of Data in “Star Trek: TNG.” The part went to Brent Spiner, who also played Dr. Soong.
• Julia Nickson was considered for the role of Tasha Yar in “Star Trek: TNG.” The part went to Denise Crosby. Nickson guest-starred in one episode each of “TNG” and “Deep Space Nine” as different characters.
• Patti Yasutake had a recurring role as Nurse Ogawa in “Star Trek: TNG” and appeared in the movies “Star Trek: Generations” and “Star Trek: First Contact.”
• Rosalind Chao had a recurring role as botanist Keiko O’Brien in “Star Trek: TNG” and “Deep Space Nine.” In one episode of TNG, Caroline Junko King played Keiko as a child.
• Hana Hatae had a recurring role as Molly O’Brien, daughter of Keiko and Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney), in “Deep Space Nine.” In one episode, Michelle Krusiec played Molly as an adult.
• Clyde Kusatsu had a recurring role as Adm. Nakamura in “Star Trek: TNG.”
• Cynthia Gouw played Romulan diplomat Caithlin Dar in the movie “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”
• Jacqueline Kim played Ensign Demora Sulu, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter, in the movie “Star Trek: Generations.”
• Garrett Wang played Ensign Harry Kim in all seven seasons of “Voyager.” Robert Ito played Harry’s father in one episode and Irene Tsu played his mother in two episodes. Wang also appeared as a different character in the fan film “Star Trek: Of Gods and Men,” which featured several cast members from the franchise. Ito played a Starfleet officer in an episode of “Star Trek: TNG.”
• Linda Park played communications officer Hoshi Sato in all four seasons of “Enterprise.” Keone Young played Hoshi’s father in one episode. Young also played baseball star Buck Bokai in an episode of “Deep Space Nine.”
• Daniel Dae Kim had a recurring role as Cpl. Chang in “Enterprise.” He was also a guest alien in an episode of “Voyager” titled “Blink of an Eye.”